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Try Fine Dining In Colorado’s Wine Country

By on January 18, 2012

Grand Junction is often used as a stopover and gateway to the surrounding natural beauty of southwestern Colorado and nearby Utah.  Visitors should consider spending some time in Grand Junction — within the city limits, there are several museums, arts and theater, shopping, fine dining, and wine tasting.  It’s also a great location to use as a home base for day trips and year-round recreational activities.

It may seem a bit remote as it’s located 247 miles southwest of Denver, but Grand Junction is actually the largest city in western Colorado – with a population of over 58,000.  It’s a busy area as many visitors pass through its regional airport, which serves as a major transportation hub between Denver and Salt Lake City.

Located in Mesa County, Grand Junction sits in the Grand Valley and is part of Colorado’s Western Slope, which refers to the region incorporating everything west of the Continental Divide.  Grand Valley is a major fruit-growing region, and, in more recent years, several wineries have been established in the area.  As a result, Grand Junction is also known as “Colorado’s Wine Country.”

Colorado’s Wine Country – Grand Junction

The red sandstone formations of the Colorado National Monument overlook the city and can be reached within 15 minutes of most lodging. Outdoor enthusiasts will not be bored as they can enjoy hiking, golfing, and skiing at Powderhorn Mountain Resort, river rafting, and mountain biking (the Kokopelli Trail runs 142 miles from Grand Junction to Moab).

There’s always something going on in Grand Junction – events like the Downtown Art & Jazz Festival or the Colorado Mountain Winefest.  Downtown Grand Junction has art galleries, antique shops, boutiques, and one of the nation’s largest sidewalk sculpture galleries.

However you spend your day, you’ll work up an appetite.  Grand Junction has its share of fast-food restaurants and chains, but if you’re looking for something other than burgers and chicken wings, there are a number of fine dining options available. And since Grand Junction is Colorado’s Wine Country, you’ll be surprised at the number of quality wines available.

The Winery Restaurant

The Winery Restaurant serves a variety of aged steaks and prime rib, chicken, pork, veal, and fresh seafood specials.  True to its name, it has an extensive wine list with prices ranging from very reasonable to astronomical.  Wines come from the California region, Europe, and, of course, local Colorado vineyards.  A large selection of after-dinner drinks and “The Palisade” – The Winery’s Signature Dessert top off your meal.

Located on historic Main Street, The Winery was named one of Grand Junction’s “Best of the West” and has been in business for over 30 years.  The remodeled 90-year old building used to house a horse-drawn carriage fire station, contains flowered stained glass windows, and is adorned with barn wood and bricks.

The Winery is perfect for special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries, a romantic evening, or just a great night out with friends.

Dining area at il Bistro Italiano

il Bistro Italiano

il Bistro Italiano specializes in traditional Italian dishes along with innovative modern Italian cuisine.  The owner, Brunella Gualerzi, was born in northern Italy, where her mother taught her how to make traditional Italian dishes.  She brought her passion for food with her, along with her recipes, which have been on il Bistro’s menu since 1998.

il Bistro has a large selection of pasta dishes, stone oven hand-tossed pizza, and several varieties of veal dishes, pork, and kobe beef.  A large selection of Italian and local Colorado wines are available.

If you have room left after a hearty portion of pasta or veal, try a traditional Italian dessert like tiramisu, panna cotta or their special creation — a lavender cheesecake with blueberry flavor.  If you prefer drinking your dessert, try a glass of raspberry chocovine – a delicious combination of Dutch chocolate and red wine.

Family-style dinners give diners the opportunity to sample many different dishes. They also have cooking classes, wine nights, regional dinners, and split the wheel events (where you can sample different cheeses).

626 on Rood

Located in downtown Grand Junction, 626 on Rood specializes in modern American cuisine.  It’s also a wine bar with an extensive selection of wines from around the world.  Diners can either enjoy indoor dining in a contemporary atmosphere or outdoor dining on their Urban Garden Patio.

The restaurant has a diverse dinner menu with options like quail and Hawaiian barramundi, but it also offers standard fare items like pasta, chicken, lamb, and a variety of steak choices, including buffalo tenderloin. The menus at the restaurant change according to what is in season so whatever you decide on should always be fresh.

Custom menus are available for any occasion as well as wine tasting and themed events. Their large sharing menu is served all day, and, if you visit during 626’s Amusement Hour, you can enjoy tapas and escargot.

Le Rouge Restaurant & Piano Bar

Also located in historic downtown Grand Junction, Le Rouge offers classic and contemporary French cuisine.  Le Rouge uses fresh, seasonal ingredients – many of which are locally grown and harvested in western Colorado.

Owner and chef, John Barbier, knows his wine.  He grew up on a vineyard in France where his family had been making wine for 150 years.  Wines come from Europe, Australia, California, and Colorado (harvested by Barbier himself) – and the list changes frequently.

Le Rouge has earned a reputation for some of the best jazz music on the Western Slope.  Talented musicians perform in the Piano Bar nightly, and live music is available on Friday and Saturday nights. Special events include wine tasting, hosted wine dinners, and themed dinners.

If You Go

Grand Junction Info: www.visitgrandjunction.com

The Winery Restaurant
642 Main Street (in the Breezeway)
(970) 242-4100
www.winery-restaurant.com

il Bistro Italiano
400 Main Street (at the intersection of 4th Street)
(970) 243-8622
www.ilbistroitaliano.com

626 on Rood
626 on Rood Avenue
(970) 257-7663
www.626onrood.com

Le Rouge Restaurant & Piano Bar
317 Main Street
(970) 257-1777
www.lerougerestaurant.com

Linda Steinmuller is a freelance travel writer and copywriter from Brooklyn, New York, who loves the outdoors and skiing, and visits Colorado frequently.

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